Six months on: Challenges linger, hope remains in Japan's quake-hit areas

People have marked six months since a major earthquake jolted the Noto Peninsula and nearby areas. Many communities are still struggling to rebuild from the devastation.

The magnitude 7.6 quake killed 281 people in Ishikawa Prefecture. Fifty-two of those deaths were caused by post-disaster illnesses, such as fatigue and psychological stress. Officials say three people are still unaccounted for.

People reflected during a moment of silence at the exact time the quake happened on New Year's Day.

Kunishige Keiko prays it never happens again. She runs an inn in the city of Suzu where tsunami triggered by the tremors crashed into the coastline. Many other residents have not come back.

Kunishige said: "People around me are gradually leaving this area. I feel lonely and anxious about Suzu's future."

Six months on, some are still clearing debris.

Sakashita Hideaki said: "I think things haven't changed much since the quake hit. I hope this neighborhood will return to how it was before. But I think that may take decades."

An estimated 22,000 buildings were damaged beyond repair in quake-stricken areas in-need of demolition by local municipalities. So far, just over 900 of those structures, about 4 percent, have been dealt with.

As of June 25, over 2,288 Ishikawa residents were still sheltering at evacuation sites, with housing repair workers dealing with a huge backlog of damaged homes.

Meanwhile, business owners like Minamidani Miyu are trying to rebuild livelihoods wiped out by the disaster. She ran a market stall with her mother specializing in a salty condiment made with preserved squid. Its key ingredient is "ishiru," the traditional fish sauce of the Noto Peninsula. The quake destroyed their workshop and all their stock.

Minamidani said, "I was devastated. We had put in a lot of hard work to make it."

She almost lost hope but decided to rebuild and keep alive the flavors handed down in her family through generations. Through online crowdfunding, she raised more than 120, 000 dollars. Recently, she has started taking part in discussions on redeveloping the market area.

She said, "I hope the town will become a place that will attract many visitors."

Minamidani says working together with people now, six months on, she can finally see the future taking shape.